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Ecstasy - Truth Drug?

1. Introduction

1.1 Many Ecstasy users who are arrested by police may be at risk of making damaging statements during police interviews if under the influence of the drug. Ecstasy and derivatives were reportedly used as a "truth drug" by South African security forces during the apartheid era. Users are therefore strongly advised not to be interviewed by police until the effects of a drug have worn off.

1.2 If interviewed by police, Ecstasy users are advised to state during any interview if they are under the influence of ecstasy and as a result would not be fit for interview. This may result in a longer detention in custody prior to questioning.

2 Studies on Ecstasy effects and openness

2.1 Beck et al , in a study of MDMA users, report of a dose of 225mg (2 to 3 typical tablets) causing delirium and hallucinations. Other users reported nausea, and an overwhelming queasiness or "wierd period". Jaw tension is common. Enhanced communication and reduced inhibitions are perceived as desirable qualities of the drug, but this can go further than intended. One student described a friend at a party telling all in his private life:

"He was very very revealing, and it was stuff that, no way, he would have told us under normal circumstances"

2.2 Short term after-effects included fatigue, malaise, headaches persisting for up to two days. Long-term users described "mental burnout", with increasing severity of "hangovers" and other side effects was cited as a reason for reducing or discontinuing use.

"Life would get tough, thinking processes were tough, and emotionally you were just on edge..."

"I remember being extremely depressed the next day...I couldn"t remember what the purpose of my life was...I had a really rough time of it for the next couple of days."

2.3 Shapiro reports moderate doses to give a mild euphoric rush, followed by feelings of serenity and calmness, and the dissipation of anger and hostility. There is heightened perception of surroundings without the distortions of LSD, states that flashbacks can occur some time after using the drug. High doses caused problems including anxiety, panic, confusion, insomnia, psychosis and visual and auditory hallucinations, leaving the user in a weakened physical and mental condition.

2.4 In an experimental study of psychiatrists who themselves used MDMA for research or recreation, 85% reported increased openness with others and 80% decreased defensiveness, 65% decreased fear and 60% decreased separation or alienation from others. In the short-term following recovery from intoxication 20% reported increased openness and decreased defensiveness, and these figures were respectively 35% and 30% over the longer term.


3. Other phenethylamines

3.1 Eisner described MBDB as a milder stimulant/euphoriant than MDMA, but with increased "Entactogenic" effects (openness and empathy). The activity was considered surprising as the chemical structure would be expected to be inert according to the theoretical basis of psychoactivity.

3.2 Shulgin describes the effects of MBDB, BDB and 2-CB at different dosages:

MBDB - Stated 210mg to be "very friendly" and "de-stressing effect". "Too much trouble to set out to do anything really", 280mg - "Very much like MDMA, more intense intoxication, intense euphoria, feeling of grace, animated discussions, feelings of great closeness to others, less inclination to talk."

BDB - Effects were described as similar to MDMA, but less psychedelic, difficult to concentrate, no visual or perceptual distortions. Higher doses (230mg) well-tolerated, good humoured, easy talking, onset about 30m mins, peak just under 2 hours, slow dropping off of effects.

2-CB - Moderate dosages (10-20mg) seem to provide similar experiences to MDMA, higher doses (40-100mg) may provoke panic and terror, one psychologist had a near-death experience, but fully recovered realised after two to three hours that he would not die and then had an enjoyable experience. The combination of MDMA and 2-CB was described "as if the mental and emotional discoveries can be mobilised, and something done about them". 2-CB was stated to be one of the shortest acting phenethylamines, and to have potential as an aphrodisiac!

4. Fitness for interview?

4.1 The increased openness described by users of ecstasy, decreased hostility and empathy (fellow-feeling) with surrounding persons may well cause a person to be more cooperative during an interview, and more likely to agree with propositions put to him by police officers.

4.2 Even 12 hours following intoxication, if numerous tablets were taken there could be a residual intoxication after 12 hours, sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon" effect. If the dose was higher, or the user particularly susceptible to the effects, then a greater degree of intoxication would be expected, although still substantially below the peak of intoxication which would normally occur 2-4 hours following ingestion of the tablets. In the short term following the end of acute intoxication, Leister found many still reported greater openness and decreased hostility in the days following ecstasy use.

4.3 There is therefore every possibility that interviewed persons continue to be affected by drugs taken some hours before, and may not be in a fit mental state to deal with questions in the same manner as if in an unintoxicated state. It is probable that there would be an increased compliance and cooperation with the police. This could imply either a greater willingness to reveal the truth, or alternatively to agree to any false suggestions put by a police officer during questioning.


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